Monroe resident remembers JFK election; 'This is bigger'

Report by Tanieya Lewis and Chrys Peterson
Posted by LS

MONROE, Mich (WTOL) - Sharon Rangel from Monroe, Michigan remembers the night John F Fennedy was elected. Though, she says the results of this election day may have meant even more. "I think Obama is the right person for this time. I think he can bring us together," she says.

Bringing people together is something Rangel has been concerned with for years. She admits a feeling of regret and responsibility for what she calls the sins of her race: slavery and racism.

For this Michigan voter, Barack Obama offers resolution and an opportunity to feel free. "If you feel oppressed -- no hope -- things won't change. All you have to do is look 40 years ago and now. Things have completely turned around, so things can always get better."

Sharon was quick to say she doesn't look at Obama's election as a cure-all. She realizes there are still issues imbedded in the fabric of our culture. Though she hopes everyone will see it the way she sees it... as a huge step in the right direction.

An email sent to WTOL from Sharon Rangel

The election of the first African American president of the United States isn't just a wonderful event for African Americans and other minorities, it is a wonderful thing for this country as a whole.  I am 62 years old, white, middle class and I voted for Barak Obama because his policies and theory of government are the same as mine.  I also believe that my economic interests are likelier to be met by a democrat than a republican.  His race was incidental to my vote, but not incidental to my happiness with his election.  I lived through the civil rights era, and to this day feel a deep personal shame and guilt for the history of slavery and legacy of racism that my country and my race in particular enabled.  How could a country whose very founding documents trumpeted a belief in the rights of all people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ever allow this?  And how could my race be the one that instituted and perpetuated it?

Last night while I was lying in bed, I was trying to sort out my feelings of euphoria and sadness at the same time.  I finally realized what I was feeling was a sense of redemption.  I have always been outspoken against injustice, but I still had the guilt-by-association feeling for the past sins of my race.   I feel free from that now.  The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. come back to me.  "Free at last" wasn't a dream for oppressed African Americans only, it was also a dream for the rest of us who felt responsible some how for the sins of the past.

I'm not a Pollyanna; I know everything isn't fixed.  But what a step.  What a beautiful step.  I'm so glad I was allowed to live to see this day.

Sharon Rangel, Monroe, MI